If you are a leader of a group taking a mission trip somewhere in the world this year you are no doubt aware that mission trips can bring do both harm and good. Here are a few ideas, 3 to be exact, that lead to well-done mission trips.
First of all, before you go, realize that God has already gone ahead of you. That correct, you are probably not taking Jesus to the place where you are going….He’s already there!
I was chatting with a friend last week who lost financial support for his agency from a church mission committee. My friend leads a ministry working with inner city poor. The support was instead given to a single student headed to Peru on a mission trip. The church that usually supports my friend’s work said they were shifting their support to this individual because he was taking Jesus to “these people who had never heard of Him.” Hmmmm… This short term missionary will be surprised to find that Jesus bought a ticket to Peru a few years back.
Number one. God has gone before us…where ever we go!
Understanding this opens us up to searching how God is already at work in a community and simply joining Him. We do this at Mission Discovery by establishing partnerships with missionaries and agencies who want our help for a particular cause. Some agencies can’t use our teams, other find immediate value in the construction of additional classroom space, or helping our teams become their ambassadors back home for the cause of their work. This attitude is that of a learner. Go as a learner.
It seems simple but Jesus, among the many other things He came to do, came to serve. So secondly consider going on your mission trip as a servant. This doesn’t mean giving things away. I’ve seen so much harm come from the giving of things to the needy. Some of our partners need supplies for their work, this isn’t what I’m talking about. Random giving of things to individuals does bring harm and dependency. Just don’t do it. On our trips we don’t allow it. We want relationships to be built through the telling of our stories or by working side by side with a community.
And finally please do not tell people how to be saved. Tell them rather, how you were saved….tell your story. It breaks my heart when the poor become targets of someones numbers game. I’m guilty, I’ve done it before, but I’ve changed. Yes, it takes longer to tell your story.
I like telling my story after I’ve gotten to know a person. I always start by first asking that person to tell me his story. I ask questions. Sometimes the conversation just naturally leads to God. At other times the stories I hear from others don’t include Him. I then tell my story.
I do realize that sometimes you just don’t have that kind of time. That happened to me in downtown Montego Bay, Jamaica. I was with a group from Taylor University who was doing a street drama on a Saturday night. Back in the back of the crowd was a man with a snow cone cart making a little money on a hot Jamaica evening. He asked if I was with the group that was doing the drama and asked if I would pray for him he had bad headaches. I was glad to do that, but asked him if something in the drama moved him closer to God. He said, “Yes.” And I asked if he had come to the event to decide to follow Christ? He answered, “Yes.” We prayed together and I connected him with a pastor friend of mine there for help in his new walk with God. I wanted to tell him my story but it was loud on the streets. He committed to call Richard, my pastor friend, and we parted ways. I’m so relational that just typing “we parted ways” almost breaks my heart. I am no longer in contact with this man.
God loves the poor. Please honor them as God’s very treasured people. Learn, Serve and Tell your Story.